Macron's Stunner Gives France a Stark Choice

'Do you really want to be governed by the far right?' is how one analysis frames his gamble
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2024 9:56 AM CDT
Macron's Gamble Likened to 'Russian Roulette'
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Normandy.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The sentiment in news coverage appears to be unanimous in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron's surprise decision to call early elections: It amounts to a monumental gamble in his fight with the far right. He is, in the words of center-right politician Valerie Pecresse, "playing Russian roulette with the country's destiny," reports France24.

  • What happened? Macron's centrist Renaissance party got trounced by the far-right National Rally party in elections for the European Parliament. As the BBC notes, these EU elections in theory have no bearing on domestic politics, but the drubbing was so bad (the NR got about 31% of the vote to Renaissance's 14%) that Macron "clearly decided that continuing his mandate without a new popular consultation would place too much of a strain on the system." As Macron himself put it, "France needs a clear majority to move forward with serenity and harmony."

  • Rare move: Macron dissolved the lower house of France's parliament, though he was under no obligation to do so, which no president had done since 1997, per the New York Times. His centrist coalition has been governing with a slim majority, and the snap election might be a way for Macron to keep his opponents from organizing—"and to present voters with a stark choice between him or the far right," writes the Times' Aurelien Breeden.
  • The risk: "He may hope to stop the far right in its tracks," writes Alexander Smith at NBC News. "But he also risks handing them domestic power, hobbling the final years of his centrist premiership while overshadowing a summer that was due to be one of celebration at the Paris Olympics." The election will be staged in two rounds, June 30 and July 7, and will be over by the time the Olympics begin.
  • The stakes: Macron "has presented it as an existential choice for French voters: do you really want to be governed by the far right?" per the Guardian. If the National Rally performs as well in the national election as in the European one, "France could become nearly ungovernable, with Mr. Macron confronting a Parliament hostile to everything he believes in," writes Breeden.
  • The players: Macron will remain president no matter what—presidential elections are separate, and he has three years remaining in his second term. The anti-immigrant National Rally is led by the controversial Marine Le Pen, but should the NR triumph in the national election, it would likely name her extremely popular protege, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, as prime minister, according to France24.
(More France stories.)

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